Here's The Catch With Veggies: Starchy vs Non-Starchy

We know that vegetables are good for us because they are loaded with vitamins, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. We need them for energy and digestion. But did you know that there are two types of vegetables: starchy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables?

Most carb counters are aware of this, but not everyone is, mostly because most of us have been raised with the mantra that vegetables are vegetables and they are good for us. Even though veggies are plant-based foods, they do contain carbohydrates. Starches are carbohydrates and so is indigestible fiber, which are both found in vegetables. However, starches are stored in the form of sugar, unlike fiber. Starches are long chains of sugar molecules bonded together.  Since indigestible fiber isn’t digested in the body it does not elevate blood sugar levels and therefore it is often times recommended that we subtract fiber grams from our total carbohydrate count. When counting carbs, this matters because you are only consuming the “net carbs,” due to fiber content. The American Diabetes Association does make it a point to address starchy versus non-starchy vegetable selections.

Starchy Vegetables

In general, a half-cup of these vegetables has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Each gram equals 4 calories, so the extra count adds to your daily totals. However, these are the better choice of carbs versus baked goods or chips. Eating a potato is not all bad for you. In fact, a medium sized potato has about 40 carbs, but also has 4.5 grams of protein, fiber, vitamins B6 and C, potassium, and manganese. It’s hard to negate their nutritional value despite the extra carbs. At the same time, they are high in sugar, are a simple carbohydrate, can raise glucose levels, are higher on the glycemic index, but they tend to provide tons of energy. During the growing stages of life we should have starchy vegetables, but as we age we can reduce their intake. We should not ignore them completely but can limit them to 2 to 3 times per week.

The list includes:

  1. Potatoes
  2. Sweet potatoes
  3. Squash
  4. Corn
  5. Peas

Non-Starchy Vegetables

In general, a half-cup of cooked or a full cup of raw non-starchy vegetables has about 5 grams of carbohydrates, with the main component being fiber. They are typically low in calories, don’t affect blood sugar, and have less sugar. Some say these vegetables don’t need to be restricted to portions, but keep in mind each body type is different.

The list includes:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Celery
  3. Carrots
  4. Cauliflower
  5. Cucumber
  6. Brussels Sprouts
  7. Onions
  8. Lettuce
  9. Spinach
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Asparagus
  12. Kale
  13. Zucchini

Eat your veggies, keep an eye on which type (shoot for non-starchy when possible), and remember to keep the dips, dressings, and condiments in check.


10/28/2023 4:00:00 AM
Megan Johnson McCullough
Megan is an NASM Master Trainer and Instructor, professional natural bodybuilder, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle & Weight Management Specialist, member of Men’s Heath Fitness Council, Wellness Coach, Women’s Health Magazine Action Hero, candidate for her Doctorate, and fitness st...
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